Are Condoms the World’s Cure-All?

By: Christopher West

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The Curt Jester ( recently reported that some students at Mary Washington University in Fredericksburg, VA have organized a campaign they call Food Not Condoms.   “The name says it all,” according to Brittany Shankle, a student at Mary Washington who is coordinating the campaign.   “Last year International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) dispensed 103.4 million condoms to starving people.   The problem,” Shankle observed, is that “you can’t eat condoms.”  Shankle calculates that the cost of those condoms could have paid for over 200 million meals for the hungry. “We want to raise awareness of the fact that people in Africa, Honduras, and other parts of the world are starving while organizations and governments are shipping millions of dollars worth of condoms every year instead of food or aid.   Food Not Condoms is their wake up call.”

Shankle is correct to challenge the “condoms as a cure-all” mentality.   Condoms — we’re taught to believe — are the great savior of humanity.   Condoms will solve the problem of poverty in South America; they’ll solve the problem of AIDS in Africa; and they’ll solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies in the good ol’ USA.   When this is the reigning mentality, the Catholic Church is then accused of promoting poverty, AIDS, and abortions because of her refusal to endorse condoms.  But why does the world suffer from poverty, AIDS, and so-called “unwanted” pregnancies?   Obviously, the causes are multiple and complex.   But if we take a look at the common denominator in all these problems, it becomes very clear why condoms are not the true solution.   In fact, it is not difficult to demonstrate that condoms actually foster these problems.

The Undeniable Link between Contraception and Other Sex Issues

The number one profile of people in poverty across the globe is single women with children.   What does this tell us?   In most cases, some man came, had his selfish pleasure, and left.   In other words, while there are many factors that cause and contribute to poverty, the leading cause across the globe is failure to respect the seriousness of sex and its consequences.   Do condoms help this problem or foster it?  There are several ways of acquiring AIDS, but what is the number one cause of this disease?   Sexual promiscuity.   This is not a judgement laden statement, just the observation of a politically inconvenient fact.   Those who save sex for marriage and are faithful within marriage are not at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.   If sexual promiscuity is the number one cause of AIDS, will condoms help this problem or foster it?

And why do we have “unwanted” pregnancies?   Generally speaking, it’s because people are under the grand illusion that they can have sex and avoid the consequences.   Will condoms help this problem or foster it?  In the final analysis, there is one reason we have abortion — because men and women are having sex without being open to life.   Those who understand this can see that trying to solve the abortion problem by getting more contraception out there is like throwing gasoline on a fire to try to put it out.  Even the US Supreme Court recognizes the inherent connection between contraception and abortion.   As it stated in the 1993 case Planned Parenthood versus Casey: “In some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception….   For two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.”

Alternative Solutions

Perhaps an analogy might help.   If the problem is that people are pounding each other’s toes with sledge hammers, you can give them steel-toe shoes, or you can help them to respect their feet and find a better use for sledge hammers.   What’s the real solution?   If you choose the former, shoe companies will love you for it.   If you choose the later, there’s a lot of educational work to be done, and John Paul II “theology of the body” would be a great place to start.

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